End Of An Era: Sentry Aircraft Returns Home To RAF Waddington For Retirement

After more than 30 years of service, the Sentry is to be succeeded by three E-7 Wedgetails, based at RAF Lossiemouth, in 2023.

The Sentry aircraft has returned to its home base at RAF Waddington following its final mission – bringing to a close 30 years of operational service.

The Boeing E-3D Sentry aircraft flew its final operational sortie as part of the counter-Daesh Op Shader last month.

The aircraft from 8 Squadron had been deployed to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus and was the latest and last deployment since 2015.  

Officer Commanding 8 Squadron, Wing Commander Victoria Williams, described its most recent operations supporting the HMS Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group deployment in the Middle East as a 'resounding success'.

The Sentry flew its final operational sortie as part of the counter-Daesh Operation Shader last month.

Wng Cdr Williams said: "This was the first operational detachment of the fleet since 2016 and involved a Whole Force of RAF, Reservists and contractors to deliver 30 missions in nine weeks.

"The Sentry was able to provide the recognised air and surface picture to the Carrier Strike Group to facilitate its safe transit from the Straits of Gibraltar to the Suez."

A fleet of three Boeing E-7 Wedgetails, operating from RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland, is set to replace the E-3D Sentry in 2023

Wng Cdr Williams added: "The skills and experience of Sentry crews, particularly those developed through working closely with naval assets during this deployment, will now be re-invested.

"The E-7 Wedgetail programme will enter service in 2023, replacing Sentry as the RAF's Airborne Early Warning and Airborne Command and Control platform."

Group Captain Robert O'Dell, the Deputy Head Capability at the ISTAR Force HQ, said he was "exceptionally proud to have been associated" with the Sentry since it entered service in 1991 and admitted to "mixed feelings" at being involved in its retirement.

He said: "Sentry has defined my career and it is inevitably with mixed feelings I now find myself involved with its retirement. 

"However, all E-3D aircrew, groundcrew and supporting civilians should feel justifiably proud of the enormous contribution it has made to NATO and UK Air Policing, combat and humanitarian operations in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya, as well as countering drug-smuggling in the Caribbean."

Cover image: E-3D Sentry at RAF Akrotiri flying in support of defence operations (Picture: MOD).